The trip started well enough early on Friday morning with Paul Cummins, Abdel Meflah and Donal Tannam briefly meeting John Dennis and his wife at the Boarding Gate in Dublin Airport. John was on an earlier flight with Aer Lingus, the rest of the Team were with Ryan Air. Someone who shall remain nameless misread the information from the Information Screens and mistook the first flight out for the second one. Someone else (both of them, actually!) didn’t double check the statement of The Nameless One. A timely ‘phone call from Ciaran Cummins, the right man in the right place, alerted our hapless heroes who moved, faster than an average squad session warm-up, through the Terminal to arrive with minutes to spare at the correct gate. With a few more little false starts, the Second Wave collected their Hired Car at Budapest Airport and got to their Hotel and the Venue in time to successfully make the weigh-in, preceded by the reliable John Dennis.
The Team met for breakfast early enough to get some fuel into their systems without compromising their performance later in the day and were walking, stretching or running on the mat area almost an hour before official Start Time. As it happened, the Competition didn’t get started until almost an hour after schedule and Paul and Donal continued their excellent but measured warm-up/Randori session up to the point of the mats being cleared for the Opening Speeches and Bowing of all the Competitors. By walking slowly around the hall whilst checking the two handy Fight Information Screens provide, Donal managed to stay awake and flexible enough to walk out for his first fight and beat a former World Masters Champion twice by Ippon (best out of three) and secure the first Gold of the day. As Donal was finishing, Paul was already starting his first fight on another mat. Despite a serious hand injury carried over from the recent Irish Open, Paul won three fights in a row with Ippon to claim Gold. By this time Abdel and John had started their own categories and a little creativity was required by all to try and ensure that no player went out without encouragement from the sidelines.
John Dennis had won his first fight briskly by Ippon by the time Abdel was attacked with a sacrifice throw leading straight in to a head blow which unfortunately resulted in the first aid being called to the mat. Although Abdel was conscious, with neck/head injuries no chances are taken, so while John was winning a further two fights by Ippon (having lost a tight round to the eventual Champion) to claim Bronze, the third and final medal of the day, Paul and Donal were going back and forth to their team mate matside on a stretcher with his neck braced and his head immobilised.
To allay the growing distress of our readers, let us quickly assure you that Abdel was discharged that same day (diagnosis:compression of the spine) and is recovering well. But first he had to lie for at least 90 minutes matside in pain, dressed in his judo trousers and covered with a light sheet, before being driven in discomfort and no great hurry to Saint John’s Hospital in Budapest. Paul and Donal were in dread of trying to find this Hospital in a strange country with the night closing in, but Ieva Dennis came to the rescue with technical support and Paul’s ‘phone was set to roaming so that the nice lady from Google Maps could give directions to the driver and his navigator. Despite the excellent technology, Paul and Donal circled the hospital twice convinced it was a disused prison or factory before venturing into its dark depths to rescue Abdel (minus the neck brace). The place had to be seen to be believed and Abdel’s passport was held until such time as he settled his bill by Visa. Important note to all judoka travelling: make sure you have and bring a EU Medical Card.
All the travellers were reunited in the restaurant adjacent to the Hotel Training (scene of last year’s impromptu sing-song) in time for some well-needed food and perhaps a beer or two. Two Golds, One Bronze and a Diploma deserve a little celebration. Special thanks to Paul Cummins for his cheerful non-stop driving over the weekend (the hotel/venue are 50km from the airport), Ieva and John Dennis for excellent company, and Abdel for being a great and patient patient!
Finally, in response to an e-mail thanking the President of the Hungarian Masters for the tournament, I enclose almost in full his reply which is of interest. From Miklos Flori 7th Dan:
“Thank you for your kind email. We are honoured that you are visiting us for many years now from Ireland which is quite a distance. Have to mention that you should be be proud on your results since your club was 5th in the rank in terms of medal out of 76 clubs on our event! We do appreciate your achievements, and do hope you will keep keep and participate in the next years as well. “